Today’s Reading: Romans 8:18-39
Over the last few weeks, life has changed. Across almost all the world, humanity is struggling to deal with a virus too small for the naked eye to see. Hundreds of thousands of people are sick. As I write this, more than 26,000 people around the world have died as a result of contracting Covid-19.
People are scared. There have been fights over toilet paper. Tempers have been flaring – and the staff at our local shops have had to face the fearful anger of their customers. And then there are those who have lost their jobs because of the outbreak. Our government is doing all it can to flatten the spread of the virus – but the side-effect of saving lives is the undoing of the livelihoods of many. There are several people in our own congregation who have been directly affected like this.
As Christians, we aren’t immune to suffering. To the contrary, Christians are likely to suffer simply for being Christians. This world, and the ruler of this world, stand against God and His people. Christians have always faced hardship and persecution – sometimes to the point of death. We are fortunate that we have not yet had to suffer in this way in Australia.
But Christians are also not immune to the general suffering that comes from living in a broken world. I watched a terrible video this week of a pastor encouraging everyone in his (large) congregation to shake hands with each other. He said that the church was the safest place to be, suggesting that Christians don’t have to be afraid of catching covid-19. He couldn’t be more wrong. Christians get sick. Christians die.
But there is a difference between the Christian and the non-Christian in times of suffering. It’s a difference of perspective. It’s a difference born from our having the Spirit as the first-fruits of the new creation living in us. Everyone groans during suffering. But Christian groaning – like that of creation itself, and of the Spirit of God – is of a different sort to that of those who don’t acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Christian groaning looks beyond the present to the glorious future when Christ shall return.
As we groan, may we be reminded of the future God has in store for us. And may we, groaning with hope, encourage those around us to make their one foundation Jesus Christ, our Lord.